Alachua County Commission adds six weeks of paid parental leave for employees

Chair Anna Prizzia listens during the August 8 Alachua County Commission meeting


GAINESVILLE, Fla. – At the August 8 Alachua County Commission meeting, the board voted to provide six weeks of paid parental leave to employees and left open the possibility of increasing that in the future. 

The idea was developed by a group of County employees who recently completed the Florida Certified Public Manager program and was presented by Tourism Development Manager Jessica Hurov. 

The County currently does not have a paid parental leave policy, and they are finding that potential employees are looking for “social benefits” such as paid leave to care for family members. The policy would apply to all eligible employees within six months of giving birth, adopting, or fostering a child.

Comparisons with other employers

Looking at other local employers, the group found that UF offers up to eight weeks of paid leave, the City of Gainesville offers up to 12 weeks of paid leave once an employee has been there for 12 months, and the City of Newberry offers six weeks of paid leave for the primary caregiver and two weeks for the secondary caregiver once the employee has been there for 12 months. Other cities in Florida offer from four weeks to 10 weeks of paid parental leave, with most requiring 12 months of employment prior to taking leave. 

Hurov said paid parental leave allows employees to care for their families while maintaining their job security and that research shows it improves health outcomes for parents and children. It also improves the likelihood that parents will return to the workforce at the conclusion of their leave. 

Cost highest for Fire Rescue

For most departments, this would be a “soft cost” because the employee’s pay is already budgeted, but in some departments, like Fire Rescue, the employee must be replaced on their shifts, adding a “hard cost,” possibly at overtime or other special pay rates. The benefit would need to be bargained for departments that have union employees. 

The group recommended providing six weeks of paid parental leave for all eligible employees; the leave will usually be taken concurrently with Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) unpaid leave (up to 12 weeks), within six months of the arrival of the child. 

“I love this. I love everything about it.”

Commissioner Ken Cornell said he had been involved in getting paid parental leave implemented at the company that employed him when he was 25 years old; he said, getting emotional, “Those six weeks are irreplaceable… I love this. I love everything about it.”

Commissioner Mary Alford said she had been shocked to learn the County didn’t already offer paid parental leave: “I just expected, as forward-thinking as our County is, that this would have been something that we already had.” Alford asked how the County would handle families that get multiple new foster children in a year, and the answer was that the nuts and bolts of the procedure have not been hammered out yet, but most employers limit the leave to once in a calendar year. 

Chair Anna Prizzia asked why the group was recommending six weeks because “the research that I look at, again, it’s sort of like the more time you have to bond with your kid, the better.” The answer was that six weeks is “in the middle” of the other cities and counties. The annual cost to the County for a six-week parental leave policy is estimated at $242,000. Prizzia suggested the motion call for “at least six weeks” of parental leave so staff can increase it in the future without having to come back to the board. 

“It’s kind of a cultural shift”

Cornell suggested making it six weeks but asking staff to come back in 18-24 months, once the financial impact is better understood, “and see if we need to kind of move it up to maybe eight or 10 or whatever the standard is. I think this is not only obviously good for those involved, it’s kind of a cultural shift… It may become a real competitive advantage.”

Cornell made a motion to approve staff’s recommendation of six weeks of paid parental leave and ask staff to bring back analysis for the board to consider in 18 to 24 months. Alford seconded the motion. 

The motion passed unanimously.

After the vote, Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler asked whether the policy covers sick parents, and the answer was that this policy focuses on new children, but employees can use FMLA (unpaid) and any accrued leave they have to care for other family members. 

  • What they fail to disclose is the “potential” employees looking for “social benefits” also want to work from home. They should be forced to utilize their “accrued working from home sick/vacation time” for parental leave. What they also don’t tell you is many county or city offices aren’t filled with employees in house and those same employees receiving cost of living and other wage increases are financially benefitting from not having to go to the office. How is not having to drive 20 – 40 minutes to work, wear and tear on a vehicle not a financial benefit? Did they not see the latest price for gas?
    The “little guys” who fill the potholes and pick up the trash don’t get those same considerations. If they were really concerned about fairness they would pay a stipend to those employees who are still obligated, by the nature of their work, for continuing to serve the needs of the community. But again, their actions speak louder than their words.

    Liberalism and it’s sense of entitlement is destroying these United States of America…or is it their hypocrisy?

    • Which part of “The policy would apply to all eligible employees within six months of giving birth, adopting, or fostering a child.” did you find hard to understand?

      • Hopefully not any. I seem to have missed the part about the leave being utilized from existing/earned or if it’s in addition to.
        If it’s the former I’m in, the latter, not so much.

      • Jazzmin..what part of ‘How is not having to drive 20 – 40 minutes to work, wear and tear on a vehicle not a financial benefit?’ did YOU not understand? His comment was solely focused on the need for the ‘critical’ workers, the ones driving to/from work, should get a stipend because THEY are the ones performing the duties of critical infrastructure. For an obvious liberal, you sure don’t care about the blue collar workers.

        • Thanks for clarifying the intent of my comment. Maybe your clarified explanation will make more sense.😉

  • Of course the county should provide 6 weeks of parental leave. Do we believe in helping people with kids or not. Besides for being the human thing to do, no kids and our old butts have no one keeping it together in our old age. I’m happy to see my county tax dollars go for this. By the way That’s-the-way, it applies to all county employees, even the “little guys”.

    • Glad it would be applicable to the “little guys.” I also failed to determine if there would be a time employed requirement as other entities were described as having.

    • One parent shouldn’t be working anyway. Stay home until they’re in school. Better yet til they go to college (the ones with other parent working).

      • Sure Jeff, hey with all the union jobs, the GI Bill, and life long jobs at the plant, nothing has changed since 1955 when Pop bought a new Ford to park next to his trail….. – I mean in his garage – every other year.

        • Those union jobs and two parent workers are why wages declined. Jobs fled overseas and other jobs were flooded by women (driving down wages further). Two car households were needed for two worker parents, increasing pollution and auto loan debt. Increased the “need” for three or four jobs per couple, then.
          Logic is your friend, not enemy.

      • With taxes and utilities being what they are, a two income household has become a necessity for most. Throw in inflation, it’s a requirement for all but the most fortunate/privileged.

        By the way, heard on the radio this morning the next city commission meeting will introduce an increase in GRU rates…again. Pucker up!

    • On this one we agree, Jazz.

      This mirrors what is considered normal for most large organizations as well as the federal system. UF is far more generous.

      Over all this is not going to have a major impact on the budget or staffing.

      There should probably be a news story about this. I don’t think Jazz and I could agree on a ham sandwich for lunch.

    • If the intent is to keep families together, shouldn’t part of the policy include the condition it being a married, working couple?
      Would some be worried that would contradict LBJ’s great experiment?

      • That’s pretty fair. Think off all the potential unscrupulous claims there could be.
        I’m the daddy.
        No, it’s me.
        I thought it was me.

        What if the child turns out to be like Loki? Adopted.

    • Finally, someone makes a comment that supports helping the so-called “little guys.” It’s barbaric that employees don’t get paternity leave here, I bet half the people gripping get paternity leave.

  • Its unfortunate the commission expresses has no concern whatsoever for the employees who have to cover the desks of the parental leave users without additional pay.

    The honest thing to do would be for the commissioners to take unpaid leave from their day jobs to help cover these desks in addition to their duties as commissioners.

  • Did you say Forward Thinking? Good Grief these Tax Gods think highly of ITselves, Themselves,Theyselves. I am looking forward to single member districts to breakup Its disillusioned lovefest of our money. They have gotten away with apparent salary theft so they think they have no one to answer to. You may want to circle back and check with the fired Gainesville Mayor and Commissioners’ on that.

  • It’s so parents will have more time to change their baby’s sex at the Biden Gender Institute.

  • “I love this. I love everything about it.”

    Ken Cornell’s comment is a perfect example of out of control politicians. Parental leave was designed to help transition a birth and was for the mother and father. If a family does not have time on their own to adopt or foster, they won’t have time to properly care for child afterwards. This program has become grossly distorted, into a vote buying giveaway.

  • Commissioner Mary Alford said she had been shocked to learn the County didn’t already offer paid parental leave: “I just expected, as forward-thinking as our County is, that this would have been something that we already had.”

    Why didn’t she turn to Cornell and Chestnut and ask them what have you all been doing these last nine years?

  • This is something that anyone who gives more than lip service to “family values” should enthusiastically support.

  • Good…parents need temporary support in order to provide continuing support for their children. There is nothing extravagant about an employer providing six weeks of paid leave for a new mom or dad. Parents who are present during the initial weeks and months of a new life is invaluable.

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